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New Ofsted Framework shifts focus towards the quality of education rather than results – the biggest overhaul in a decade.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Focusing on the curriculum – A move from results-focused inspections to a focus on the quality of planning and delivery of the curriculum is the key shift in a recent study by Ofsted.

In December 2018, Amanda Speilman, HMCI, commissioned a major research study into the curriculum and a refocus on how best to evaluate school performance in future.

It is clear in Ms Speilman’s introduction that Ofsted recognise a results-driven culture in pursuit of league-table outcomes. They want to change this with a greater focus on curriculum quality – in terms of the curriculum intentions, the implementation and impact of the curriculum. The curriculum is the key to shaping and determining a student’s overall educational experience and the breadth and depth of a good curriculum must prepare students for life beyond the school fence. Ofsted openly accept that its historic focus on achievement and results has been a cause for schools to narrow their own curricula, to reduce the breadth of subjects being studied and to shorten the length of time in which students are exposed to peripheral subjects – commonly where core subjects have now been introduced in Year 9 in order to gain more teaching time for the GCSE syllabuses.

By focusing on a well-planned and well-delivered curriculum, progress will be made and better results should naturally follow. “Inspectors will focus on what is taught and how, and will draw the outcomes that learners achieve into that education-focused, rather than data-focused, conversation.”

Ofsted have found, in their analysis and research, that there is no link between the deprivation levels of a schools’ catchment and the quality of curriculum that they offer or are able to offer, providing evidence of opportunity for all schools.

Included in the list of indicators used in the research model to evaluate good curricula and delivery were:

  1. Curriculum coverage allows all pupils to access the content and make progress through the curriculum
  2. The curriculum is at least as ambitious as the standards set by the National Curriculum / external qualifications
  3. Subject leaders have the knowledge, expertise and practical skill to design and implement a curriculum
  4. Curriculum resources selected, including textbooks, serve the school’s curricular intentions and the course of study and enable effective curriculum implementation
  5. Curriculum delivery is equitable for all groups and appropriate
  6. Curriculum mapping ensures sufficient coverage across the subject over time

In schools where curriculum design is central to the school’s work, curriculum leaders ensured:

  • That content is sequenced to ensure that components of knowledge lead to conceptual understanding
  • Opportunities for pupils to practise what they knew – so they could deepen their understanding in a discipline – were built into the curriculum
  • The layering of knowledge and concepts were secure so that pupils could make progress in the curriculum form their starting points.

One finding was that schools exhibiting both a strong intent and a strong implementation of the curriculum had consistently strong teacher subject knowledge across the key stages, and department. Given the current recruitment and retention issues and consequently the rising numbers of new and non-specialist teachers working within departments, a consistent approach to delivering exceptional pre-planned and appropriately tailored content is a significant contributing factor in providing an equitable delivery for all students. In our own extensive research, outstanding content has also been shown to improve and refresh the subject knowledge of the teacher through professional development in-situ and consequently, improves the delivery and confidence of less experienced colleagues.

High-quality curriculums require well-planned and focused resources developed through a strong knowledge of the subject. Resources, including textbooks, should be clearly mapped to the curriculum and provide opportunity for developing and deepening understanding as students progress through their courses. “Strong principles around assessment linked to the curriculum progression model ensured that these schools could quickly address gaps in pupils’ knowledge and understanding.”

Ofsted remain reassuring in that the KS3 curriculum, and the GCSE and A Level specifications can take much of the strain in outlining teaching content. Teachers are discouraging from thinking they must redevelop a new curriculum or design everything from scratch.

We believe that all resources must provide for all students and teachers with a strong breadth and depth of learning. This has been embedded in everything that we have developed to help teachers to teach and to provide reassurance in a sound plan and implementation of your own curriculum.

PG Online

June 2019